Stuffed Mushrooms with Sausage, Nuts & Dried Fruit

Back when I was going through the casting process for The Taste, there was one question that drove me crazy--"What's your signature dish?"

Because how does a girl answer that?!

I don't really have a single "signature" dish. I have a few dishes that my friends love, but I'm not really a "signature dish" kind of girl. My style tends to vary by the seasons or my current interests, and I'm admittedly far too attention-deficit to just make one dish over and over again the same way unless I have to for work reasons.

And I'll also add that the dishes I do tend to make over and over again, aren't necessarily my best or my favorites; they're just the ones that are easiest to whip up for things like a weeknight dinner or to take to a friend's for a party. They're not things that I would really think of as being representative of my skills or style.

That said, I was forced to answer the question, and so the best thing I came up with are my Stuffed Mushrooms.

I've been making this stuffed mushroom recipe (or a version of it) since I was in college. It's probably the recipe that the majority of my friends remember most fondly. It's also the dish that I usually bring to potlucks or parties when I know I want to grab attention.

It works so well that after bringing these to a coworker's party one year, I was asked not to bring anything the next time. Not because they were bad, but because they were SO good that they took all the attention away from the recipes made by the host.


So now you know what to make if you've got a frenemy or coworker you'd like to annoy.

Anyway, the beauty of these mushrooms is that they touch on all flavor and texture notes--salty, sweet, spicy, crunchy. They can also be modified easily based on the seasons or your personal flavor preferences. (I've included options below in the recipe.)

They can also be prepared in advance and simply baked just before guests arrive. It's perfect if you're entertaining (these would make a wonderful dish to serve at your Easter brunch or luncheon this weekend, for example!)

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Stuffed Mushrooms with Sausage, Nuts & Dried Fruit Recipe
Makes about 24

24 large stuffing mushrooms
1/2 cup dried fruit (suggested: apricots, cranberries, currants, or raisins)
1/3 cup drained pimento-stuffed spanish olives from a jar (such as Goya)
1/4 cup slivered almonds (substitute pine nuts or walnuts)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional: you can also use another type of seed or nut)
3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, stems trimmed and minced finely
3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
1 pound hot Italian sausage, removed from casings (substitute fresh chorizo or sweet sausage)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees if baking same day.

Prepare the mushroom caps: remove the stems and use a spoon to scoop out a bit of the mushroom inside in order to make enough room for stuffing (save the stems and scooped out bits--they make a wonderful soup!).

Drizzle the inside of the mushroom caps with a bit of olive oil and season well with kosher salt and black pepper. Arrange mushrooms with scooped-side-up in a baking dish large enough to fit all the mushrooms snugly.

Prepare the filling: pile the dried fruit, olives, almonds, pumpkin seeds on a cutting board and run through quickly with a knife until all are chopped coursely. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the minced garlic, parsley, and grated cheese, and mix well. Add the sausage meat and mix until evenly distributed. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a generous crack of black pepper.

Use your hands to stuff each of the mushroom caps generously.

Drizzle everything with a bit more olive oil. Bake 10 minutes, then turn the dish and bake for 10-15 more minutes, or until the stuffing is fully cooked and browned, and the mushrooms are tender.

Let cool slightly before serving.

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